How does an electromagnetic doorbell work? — SH, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
When you press the button of an electromagnetic doorbell, you complete a circuit that includes a source of electric power (typically a low voltage transformer) and a hollow coil of wire. Once the circuit is complete, current begins to flow through it and the coil of wire becomes magnetic. Extending outward from one end of the coil of wire is an iron rod. When this the coil of wire—also called a solenoid—becomes magnetic, so does the iron rod. The iron rod becomes magnetic in such a way that it’s attracted toward and into the solenoid, and it accelerates toward the solenoid. The attractive force diminishes once the rod is all the way inside the solenoid, but the rod then has momentum and it keeps on going out the other side of the solenoid. It travels so far out of the solenoid that it strikes a bell on the far side—the doorbell! The rod rebounds from the bell and reverses is motion. It has traveled so far out the other side of the solenoid that it’s attracted back in the opposite direction. The rod overshoots the solenoid again and, in some doorbells, strikes a second bell having a somewhat different pitch from the first bell. After this back and forth motion, the rod usually settles down in the middle of the solenoid and doesn’t move again until you stop pushing the button. Once you release the button, the current in the circuit vanishes and the solenoid and the rod stop being magnetic. A weak spring then pulls the rod back to its original position at one end of the solenoid.